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Investor acquires stake of troubled Talbots

A New York private equity firm has purchased almost 10 percent of the stock of The Talbots Inc., the struggling women’s clothing retailer that recently warned of dramatic losses and store closings.

Sycamore Partners, which specializes in investing in consumer and retail companies, disclosed in a securities filing today that it spent than $21 million to acquire 7 million shares, of Talbots, giving it a 9.9 percent ownership of the Hingham-based firm.

Sycamore is a new private equity firm started by a veteran investors who is involved in some well-know retailing chains. Before founding Sycamore this year, Stefan Kaluzny worked for another private equity firm, Golden Gate Capital for more than 10 years, where he was involved in its investment of chains Eddie Bauer, Herbalife, J. Jill, and Romano’s Macaroni. He is also chairman of the board of Express, Inc. He also serves on Yale University’s Investment Committee.

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In the filing Kaluzny would not disclose his intentions for Talbots other than to say the stock was “undervalued and an attractive investment.’’

Talbots declined to comment and Sycamore did not return calls for comment.

But other investors welcomed Kaluzny’s arrival, sending the stock soaring almost 18 percent, to $4.07 a share.

Talbots has long struggled to find a wider customer base for products that were traditionally popular with late career or retired women. Speculation that the retailer might be the target of a takeover spread in early June when the company’s stock plunged 40 percent in one day after announcing that sales would significantly decline in the second quarter and that it would close 110 shops by 2013. A second quarter earnings report is scheduled to be released next month.

The 110 shops to be closed accounted for about $21 million in sales and $4 million in operating loss in the first quarter of 2011. About 83 stores will close in fiscal 2011, with the first group scheduled to shutter by the end of August.

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